Day one of the expedition started off as usual with a delicious breakfast of eggs, potatoes, and bacon. After breakfast and chores we headed down the trail behind the school and onto the Academy Trail. This trail is a treacherous one, as were most of the other trails we hiked until our fourth day, and we had to do quite a bit of bush-whacking. All of the obstacles in the trail were trees brought down by recent storms. The Academy Trail led us onto the Iron Mountain Trail with which we were quite familiar after our first expedition. It was a windy day with a few wispy clouds overhead. We got in a little later than expected, after our five-mile hike, so we set up our camps, cooked lentils and rice, and went to bed early.
The next day we prepared for our hike by eating a hot breakfast and hiding our campsites. Around 8:15 a.m. we started down the creek trail to our next campsite. The trail was clear in some places but in others not so much. As we arrived at our next camp, I noted the vast number of rhododendron bushes we had encountered so far. Once our camps were set up, we had classes on ground to air communication, using our orange vests as panels, and Morse code. Throughout the day it would drizzle and then stop, but in the evening it began to rain more steadily and continued until around 3:00 a.m.
Day three was a tad bit wet, but not too cold. We cleaned up our campsites and were on our way. Our trail took us off the Iron Mountain Trail, across Shady Valley, then up to the Holston Mountain range, and on to our next camp at Abingdon Gap. We stayed at this camp for two days, and on our second day, we built emergency shelters and took a compass hike. It was a gorgeous camp with a copious quantity of wood and water nearby, and both days the weather was spectacular.
On the fifth day, after spending the night in our shelters, we did the compass hike a second time because an error in our compass heading the first time had kept us from finishing the course. After most of us had completed the compass hike successfully, we began our eight-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail, enjoying the awe-inspiring views of the valley below. After about four-and-a-half hours of hiking, we arrived at camp just as night was falling. The stars were amazingly beautiful that night.
On day six we had a nice late wake-up, packed up our camps, and continued down the Appalachian Trail to Damascus, VA, a quaint town that intersects the A.T. There we enjoyed a nice refreshing Pepsi while waiting for the bus ride back to FMA and hot showers, hot drinks, and delicious food.